Jack Van Alstyne collection
Held at: John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center [Contact Us]1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Jack Van Alstyne, born ca. 1938, known to his gay friends as "Cheezit," was the son of Howard C. Van Alstyne and Marion G. Fox Van Alstyne. He lived in Camden, NJ for much of his life before moving to California. He assembled the scrapbook of Philadelphia and New Jersey gay life of the 1960s through 1980s and was part of the group of gay men and drag queens represented in the collection. He is a street photographer in San Francisco.
Series I: The Philadelphia and New Jersey bar and show nostalgia scrapbook was assembled by Jack Van Alstyne, a resident of Camden, NJ. It covers the time period of 1955-1985, with the bulk of the material 1969-1985. It contains flyers, announcements, invitations, newspaper clippings, membership cards, matchbook covers, theater tickets, cocktail napkins, and menus from and about bars, clubs, restaurants, performances and other events and individuals in the gay communities of Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.
Specific places and events featured in the scrapbook include The 2nd Fret (Philadelphia, PA), 247 Bar (Philadelphia, PA), 82 Club Review (New York, NY), Atlantic City Bal Masque (Atlantic City, NJ), Back Street Baths (Philadelphia, PA), Beaux Arts Ball (Philadelphia, PA), The Branding Iron (Berlin, NJ), The Broadway Theatre (Pitman, NJ), Camp Williamsburg Inn (Philadelphia, PA), Club Barracks Health Spa (Philadelphia, PA), Club Body Center (Philadelphia, PA), The Club Camden (Camden, NJ), Club Del Rio (Manoa, PA), Crystal Ball Room (Havertown, PA), D.C.A. Cell Block (Philadelphia, PA), Digits (Philadelphia, PA), The Entertainers Club (Atlantic City, NJ), Equus (Philadelphia, PA), Gatsby's (Philadelphia, PA), Globe Theatre (Atlantic City, NJ), Harlow's (Philadelphia, PA), Harmony Club (Philadelphia, PA), J&A Caterers (Philadelphia, PA), Key West (Philadelphia, PA), Mask & Wig Theatre (Philadelphia, PA), Maxines of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA), My Son's Place (Bellmawr, NJ), The New Peppermint Lounge (New York, NY), Odyssey (Philadelphia, PA), Pegasus (Camden, NJ), The Pepper Box (Philadelphia, PA), Plays & Players (Philadelphia, PA), The Post (Philadelphia, PA), Quincys (Philadelphia, PA), Raffles (Philadelphia, PA), Rainbows (Philadelphia, PA), Sansom Cinema (Philadelphia, PA), The Second Story (Philadelphia, PA), Society Hill Playhouse (Philadelphia, PA), Town House Private Health and Recreation Club (Camden, NJ), and Venture Inn (Philadelphia, PA). Also a bulletin on "Immune Deficiency Syndrome," labeled as the first bulletin on AIDS [in Philadelphia?], 1982. Additionally, some mementos of California, including for the AIDS Project/LA (Los Angeles, CA), Ripples (Long Beach, CA), and Sutro Baths (San Francisco, CA). The scrapbook has been photocopied in situ, and the elements have been removed from their damaging environment (magnetic album pages).
Individuals mentioned or featured in the scrapbook include drag queen Brandy Alexander, local event promoter Henri David (b. 1949), actor and drag performer Bill "Mame" Goldberg (b. 1937), transgender business owner Rachel Harlow (b. 1948), Ben Franklin impersonator Joseph Manett (1904-1984), and gayborhood fixture Mary Estelle "Mary the Hat" Shepard (1911-1984). There is also a photograph of a drag performer, signed on the back "I was a Drag Queen for the F.B.I. Rene Aug. 23. 1955," and two signed images of Divine (including one signed "Eat Shit Divine"). Color photographs of an unidentified house and also a small group of unidentified men.
Series II: Grouping of ca. 75 photographs of Philadelphia and New Jersey drag queens and gay men, owned by John Brown, known as Marilyn. These photographs were sent to Jack Van Alstyne by the family of John Brown after he died. Some photographs inscribed with the names of those depicted, including Jill, John Brown, known as Marilyn, Frances Carney (or Carnie), Charlie, Dotsie and her lover, Teddy Economis, Bernie Farley, Ronni Gillam, Ginger, Grazella, Jezabel, Marilyn's brother, Marilyn's sister, Frank McClay, Earl Milano, Mona, Jimmy Murphy, Nicki, Betsy Parker, Roy Perkins, Harry Pfister, Billy Pierce, Freddy Quay, Ri Ri, James Sullivan, Tony, Vake, John Vall, Vampira, and Jack Van Alstyne. Photographs were taken at parties at Marilyn's home, at drag pageants, on the beach, and in other locales. Places mentioned on the photographs include "13th and Market," Philadelphia, PA, Atlantic City, NJ, Gay Beach, Atlantic City, NJ, Gloucester, NJ, Marilyn's house, NJ, Marilyn's Locust Street apartment, Philadelphia, PA, Morgan Valley, NJ, Mummers Parade, Philadelphia, PA.
Series III: The iconic photographs of gay men in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA, were taken in the summer of 1953 by Jack Van Alstyne. They include two black and white photographs, framed. One photograph is inscribed on back: "Rittenhouse House [sic] Square 1953 / The photographer Jack van Alstyne - Back row - 1st on left. / John Brown (Marilyn) stretched out on five laps." The second photograph is inscribed on back: "Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Penna., Summer 1953 / Left to Right: John Brown (Later known as Marilyn), unknown, [Hen??], Sarah Vaughn, Joe / Photo by Jack Van Alstyne."
Series IV: Includes copy of a montage of "The Follies of 1967: A Reunion," drawn by Ron Gillam, accompanied by a card to Jack Van Alstyne, as well as a key to those depicted. This includes Ivy, Mickey Marcus, Flo (David Logue), Norman Wilson, Eddie Kohler, Jimmy ?, Estelle (Joe Farley), Joe Purcell, Buddy Atwood, Jimmy Dempsey, Frankie ?, Earl Milano, Jezebel (Joe Shivers), Edwina (Simon Swersky), Tony Lutz, Mona (Joe Culbertson), Buddy Pierson, Francis Carney, Nicky Smeraski, Ted Economos, Irma (Bob McLaughlin), Jack Wiley, Vake Nouskhajian, Marilyn (John Brown), Judy Garland (Georgie Dugan), Ginger LaVerne (Jimmy), Terry Smith, Billie Hewittson, Frank Highley, and "Little Me" (Ron Gillam).
Series V: Approximately 40 photographs of gay men and drag queens from Jack Van Alstyne. Some inscribed with the names of those depicted, including Bob, Bill Chapman, Dan, George Essler, Harry Hepplewhite, George Hill, Ginger (Sticky Buns), Paul Grubb, Jill (Michael), Joe, Kim (RiRi's lover), Walt Kuhner, Lenny, Marilyn (John Brown), Bill Novak, John Pantages, John Pantages' partner, Ray, Carl Razzi, RiRi, "Second Hand Rose", Skip, Vake, Jack Van Alstyne, John Voll, and Bill Young. Photographs were taken at Henri David's Halloween, at Jack Van Alstyne's Camden home (dubbed "Ironside Playhouse"), on South Street, and at Venture Inn in Philadelphia.
Series VI: Approximately 71 photographs of gay men and drag queens from Jack Van Alstyne. Some inscribed with the names of those depicted, including: Robert Baysa, John Brown (Marilyn, also called Sammy), Francis Carney, Claire, Claudio, Henri David, Dee Dee, Frank DiNic, George Essler, Dan Fox, The Rev. Joseph Gilbert, Ron Gillam, Ginger, Bill Goldberg, Anthony Louis, George Masters, Matty, Jimmy Murphy, Bill Novak, Michael O'Neal (Jill), John Pantages, Jim Paris, Harry Pfisther, Ruth, Nickie Smeraski, Jim Sullivan, Jack Van Alstyne, and Bill Young. Photographs were taken at the home of Jack Van Alstyne ("Ironside Playhouse"), on the occasion of John Brown's 45th birthday party, at the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade (1985), on the occasion of the wedding of Robert Baysa and Anthony Louis, and at other locations throughout the Philadelphia area.
Series VII: Approximately 71 photographs of gay men and drag queens from Jack Van Alstyne. Some inscribed with the names of those depicted, including: John Brown (Marilyn), Wayne Browning, Frank Conti, Dolores DiPrinzeo, Ron Gillam, Bill Goldberg (Mame), Grazella, Hinda, Lydia, Harry Maxwell, Frank McClay, Jimmy Murphy, Bill Novak, Michael O'Neal (Jill), Jim Paris, Roy Perkins, Harry Pfisther, Mary R., Helena Shibiski, Nickie Smeraski, Jim Sullivan, Vampira, Jack Van Alstyne, Sarah Vaughan, and Bob Wilkenson. Photographs were taken in in Collingswood, NJ, and in Rittenhouse Square and at Harry and John's apartment (1818 Spruce St.) in Philadelphia. There is also a pencil drawing of John Brown (Marilyn) from 1953.
Gift of Jack Van Alstyne, before 2015 through 2016
- John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center
- Finding Aid Author
- John F. Anderies
- Finding Aid Date
- April 10, 2015
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives of the William Way LGBT Community Center.